Zynga held an event last year called Zynga Unleashed. It was a chance for the company to announce some new games and give players, the press and investors a look at where the company is headed next. This year's big announcement has much greater repercussions beyond being able to play cross-platform games.
Zynga's General Manager, Manuel Bronstein, praised Zynga's games for bringing social engagement to numerous people on such a large scale. He is willing to criticize the company that signs his checks though and lamented the fragmentation between players on iOS, Android and the Web. They aim to fix that.
The fix, as revealed during Zynga Unleashed today, is Zynga with Friends. Now, it's not some kind of meta-game where people play Zynga's games as other people who are playing it with friends. It's the name of the company's new cross-platforming gaming network that will connect players regardless of device or service. The unholy combination of a man playing a Zynga Poker on a Google tablet via Google+ versus a woman on an iPad playing the native app for Zynga Poker is now a reality.
Zynga is already going to be implementing the feature into their own games, but they will also be offering it to third-party developers. Zynga has released an API into the wild that will allow developers to add group chat, live social activity stream, and a zFriends list to their own games. It will also ensure that these games work across multiple platforms.
Part of this new cross-platform initiative is the introduction of live multiplayer. As we reported, Bubble Safari players will be able to partake in this particular feature right now. It will soon spread to all of Zynga's other games within the next few months. It's unclear if third-party developers will be able to take advantage of this feature, but it's safe to assume that they will.
Remember how I said that this announcement has bigger repercussions beyond some people being able to play games together? That's true as Zynga is pushing for a unified front on all platforms regardless of allegiances. Just imagine a future where Apple and Android fanatics can mock Windows Phone users in unison over a shared app. Imagine a separate, but somehow related, future where Facebook and Google+ users can chat via video, or maybe even a Hangout, without having to leave their platform of choice.
I give Zynga a lot of flak, but this is one of the few announcements that I can totally get behind. It's not so much for the gaming aspects of it though as it is for the continued openness of the Web. Apps that use the Web should remain open for people to freely communicate ideas regardless of platform. Zynga with Friends is a big step from a major player to prove that openness is a good thing.[h/t: All Things D]